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Q&A: Lost Our Home founder shares current, future plans with shelter work

Posted 10/31/23

Founder and Executive Director of Lost Our Home Pet Rescue Jodi Polanski talks more about her story of founding the shelter and what’s in store for the team as it expands its services to continue offering animal support locally and beyond.

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Q&A: Lost Our Home founder shares current, future plans with shelter work


Founder and Executive Director of Lost Our Home Pet Rescue Jodi Polanski talks more about her story of founding the shelter and what’s in store for the team as it expands its services to continue offering animal support locally and beyond.

Originally from Tucson, Polanski along with her husband, two dogs and one cat currently reside in the Valley, where she found the ideal location to launch the shelter. Considering where to operate across the Phoenix metro, Lost Our Home needed a place that had suitable zoning, affordability, adequate space and outdoor areas for pets, which it found in Tempe.

Some of the shelter's services include rescue and adoption, a nationally recognized 90-day temporary care program, a pet food bank and partnerships with domestic violence shelters.

As for the shelter’s current work, Polanski explained that the future is about making a lasting impact, extending Lost Our Home’s reach and continuing to be a beacon of hope for pets and their families in need.

Read more below about Polanski’s background and Lost Our Home. 

Q: What is something many people don’t know about you? 

I've been a vegetarian/vegan for nearly four decades, a choice deeply rooted in my love for animals that dates back to my childhood. When I was just five years old, I'd dress up my cat in doll dresses and take her for rides in a doll stroller. I’ve always known pets were the kind of kids I wanted.

Q: What do you most cherish from your childhood

My best friends. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have met my best friend when I was five years old, and our friendship remained steadfast throughout high school. Along the way, we welcomed even more wonderful friends into our circle. These friendships were the cornerstone of my childhood, and I will always treasure the unforgettable memories and support they provided.

Q: What drew you to your community? 

I then researched Tempe and discovered its strong philanthropic spirit, making it an ideal fit for our need for volunteers. After operating our pet shelter here for six years and experiencing the tremendous support from both community members and the city of Tempe, along with the city's progressive stance on pet welfare, we purchased our building and made Tempe our permanent home.

Q: How do you want to be remembered?

I want to be remembered as someone who dedicated their life to making a profound impact in the lives of both pets and the people who cherish them. To achieve this, I have been committed to developing groundbreaking initiatives that extend beyond conventional sheltering practices. 

These programs not only improved the welfare of animals but also kept the human-animal bond intact, enhancing the lives of individuals who found joy and companionship in their pets. 

Q: What advice would you give to people entering your field? 

  • Volunteer Extensively: Invest a significant amount of time volunteering at pet shelters to gain a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies of animal welfare.
  • Seek a Mentor: Connect with a seasoned professional in upper management at a pet shelter to serve as your mentor. Their guidance and insights can be invaluable.
  • Pursue Education: Consider enrolling in the ASU Lodestar program to obtain a non-profit management certificate. These courses offer indispensable knowledge and networking opportunities for starting or managing a non-profit.
  • Secure an Experienced CPA: It's essential to engage a highly experienced non-profit CPA to establish your organization correctly from the outset. This is a crucial step for long-term success.
  • Build a Passionate Team: Surround yourself with passionate and action-oriented individuals who share your mission. Collaborating with like-minded individuals is key to achieving your goals.

Q: What do you think people should know about Lost Our Home Pet Rescue?

People should know that Lost Our Home is a lifeline for pets and families in crisis, taking a holistic approach to address complex challenges like pet displacement, abandonment and hunger. As a no-kill rescue, our primary mission is to aid people and pets in crisis. 

What truly sets us apart is our proactive approach to keeping pets out of overcrowded shelters where they may face euthanasia. We focus on serving vulnerable populations, such as women, children, seniors, veterans, low-income individuals and the disabled. 

Our aim is to prevent them from having to choose between their well-being and their beloved pets. 

Q: What does your day-to-day look like as executive director?

Unfortunately, it's not hanging out with dogs and cats all day, though that would be a dream come true. As the executive director of our non-profit pet shelter, my daily routine is a dynamic mix of tasks that start with responding to emails and urgent matters, then focusing on management tasks to keep the organization's goals and budget on track. I fundraise, work on partnerships and represent our organization in the community. 

One thing that is consistent in a pet shelter, is that there are many, many moving parts, it’s always eventful and never predictable. No matter how well I plan my day, my attention also goes to the many places throughout the day where it’s needed. Evenings are often dedicated to writing tasks since it's quiet.

While my daily routine may not involve as much direct interaction with our furry residents as I'd like, the work I do and the tireless efforts of our dedicated, incredible team of employees and volunteers, ensure our shelter is a haven for animals in need. Although it’s tiring for us all, it’s very fulfilling too.

Q: How can the community best support Lost Our Home’s efforts?

During challenging economic times, our organization plays a critical role in aiding both individuals and pets facing crises. As the economy tightens for people, the demand for our services significantly increases, resulting in a surge of activities and support requests.

Paradoxically, economic hardships often reduce the number of people who can contribute financially, leaving us with a reduced level of support precisely when our assistance is needed most.

At this juncture, donations become our most valuable resource, allowing us to continue our life-saving work. Additionally, fostering large dogs stands as a very close second in terms of impactful support. 

Q: What’s in store for you and Lost Our Home in the future?

We've just completed a significant renovation, enhancing our facilities to better serve our mission. This includes a new vet clinic for our shelter pets, an expanded food bank area, additional office space, and more room for rescuing cats. We've also created a large indoor play yard/event space, all aimed at improving the lives of both pets and people in our shelter and community.

Our expansion goes beyond our physical space. We're strengthening partnerships with animal welfare agencies and human social service organizations across Maricopa County and the state, as we're taking our successful Temporary Care Program statewide. 

We're also committed to sharing our knowledge and expertise by assisting other shelters nationwide in starting their own Temporary Care programs. Additionally, we're working with domestic violence and homeless shelters to safely integrate pets on their campuses.